Stand up for justice
Letter to Friends around the World # 81

In Cambodia, KAWP (Krom Akphiwat Phum) works with local communities and associations formed by village people. In addition to strengthening the organizational abilities of these associations, KAWP assists them to work with the new commune council. Emphasis is placed on the involvement of very poor people in decision making, and resources are set aside for them to manage alone.

The Community Based Organization (CBO) in Spean Village took a clear stand on an issue that has threatened the solidarity of the community. In early January 2012, the whole village underwent a wealth ranking in accordance with a government measure aimed at identifying the poorest and most vulnerable villagers eligible for aid. The wealth ranking was conducted in secrecy by a small number of people working under the control of local authorities.

When the results of the wealth ranking were made public, the report was subjected to much criticism, including allegations of misconduct by the assessors and the undue influence of local authorities. In total, 9 families living in absolute poverty were not included in the list, whereas 8 more privileged households were instead selected to receive assistance.

With strong encouragement from villagers and staff of Krom Akphiwat Phum, the CBO leaders approached the Village Leader and Commune Chief and explained the case, comparing data of the wealth ranking survey with information collected by the CBO.

Following several negotiations, the local authorities ultimately accepted the appeal of the poorest families and once again conducted an economic survey with the participation of CBO leaders.

The final outcome proved to be fair and satisfactory to all villagers: in addition to the 9 poorest families added to the list, it was determined that the 8 better-off families also remained entitled to aid.